The Shake on the Lake cast had a little trouble getting to their first shows this week.
The cast and crew endured a COVID-19 outbreak that cost them rehearsal time as cast members were quarantined and forced the cast to reschedule their first three shows and then begin their summer tour with two stunt doubles filling the role of a single actor.
A Shakespeare scholar might have expected such challenges. After all, while the production is titled “MxBeth,” it’s Shake’s unique take on the bard’s tragedy “Macbeth.” Shakespeare’s ‘MacBeth’ is shrouded in superstition and fear of the ‘curse’ – legend has it that saying the name of the play aloud in a theater brings bad luck.
“I would be lying if I told you that wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when things started happening,” said Chad Bradford, the show’s director who also assumed the role of Macduff for the show’s July 28 performance at the Wadsworth Homestead in Geneseo.
“At the end of the day, though, it’s just a weird moment,” Bradford said. “And that’s part of the reason we wanted to do it, to reflect that era.”
For more than a decade, Shake on the Lake, which debuted in 2012 with “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”, has held a current mirror of the bard’s work and interprets them in fast-paced and entertaining performances. across western New York.
The Geneseo show, attended by over 100 people on a warm evening when the sun kissed the show’s tiered setting on the Homestead’s back lawn, was the second show of the season. Performances are scheduled throughout the region until August 4.
“It was such a beautiful night. What’s not to like coming to see the show? said Barbara Walker of Geneseo, who has seen at least three Shake on the Lake Shakespeare productions.
Walker, like many who attended the show, said they were drawn to the show’s creativity and spontaneity.
“I think they integrated the music really well. It was seamless, like it had always belonged,” said Joe Morgan of Geneseo, who as a mature student took a Shakespeare course at SUNY. Geneseo last fall and thought it would be fun to see his first production of a Shakespeare play. “I loved it. The acting was really great.
The story, even with Shake’s own twists, stays true to its original tale: three witches – the fascinating Selena Mykenzie Gordon, along with Vinny Mraz and Ashley Winkfield tell Scottish General Macbeth (the imposing one – on stage anyway – Rick Blunt) that he will be King of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife (also played by Gordon), Macbeth kills the king and becomes king. But the story doesn’t end there as Macbeth descends into paranoia and more and more people die. Then, a civil war breaks out to overthrow Macbeth. More people are dying.
“MxBeth” – its title changed not because of the curse, but to emphasize the witches and supernatural elements of the story – features some of Shakespeare’s most familiar lines. You’ll probably recognize “Double, double work and trouble”, “Outside the fuckin’ place”, “Something nasty is coming around here” or “Life is just a walking shadow” which you probably must have memorized. for high school English class.
Bradford, in his director’s notes, said, “We tell stories because we seek to understand each other. We want to know why the world works in such a mysterious way.
“Macbeth” provides insight into the inner mysteries of individuals. For more than 400 years, he has asked his audience to confront the shadows and darkness that inhabit him.
“These themes are still relevant,” said Rice, the company’s founder. “Look at some of the ideas of truth and superstition, and how things have unfolded over the past two and a half years. In Macbeth you have someone who believes until he doesn’t want to believe anymore, until the evil has gotten so bad that he doesn’t want to believe it’s true anymore.
Yet with Shake on the Lake, even in the tragedy there are lighter winks and nods. In “MxBeth,” you’ll experience a snippet of the “Mission Impossible” theme, meet a knock-knock jock, and witness familiar professional wrestling moves during a fight scene.
Six actors embody 20 different characters. In Geneseo, Bradford and Shake co-founder Josh Rice stepped in as an understudy for roles played by Tre Whitley (Macduff, Thane of Cawdor, murderer and ensemble parts). Whitley was expected to return in upcoming performances.
“It was really cool to see,” said Nadia Bajan of Livonia. “It’s a small cast, but they feel like a really big production.”
It’s also fast; the entire story is told in approximately 90 minutes. After all, with an outdoor performance using only natural light, the show is chasing light.
“It’s probably closer to the original performances” in Shakespeare’s time, assumed Ray Parker, who liked the spontaneity of the cast. “Without additional light, the performer must play much more faithfully to the original.”
Jim Walker noted that the “phenomenal cleverness of the props” helped increase audience engagement with a scene.
“We use our imaginations as much as the actors did,” he said.
Some props, such as swords, were on stage throughout production, mounted as part of the scene, and removed when used for a scene.
Shake has used various stagings in his summer productions, but this year is the first to feature a tiered stage with railings on either side of a large round doorway that is sometimes a portal to hell, and to d Others include a hallway leading deeper into an off-stage castle and a higher room that can function as a geographic elevation or castle wall. On one side of the door is a giant eyeball which is used during the scenes with the witches.
“We try to jump in and do the impossible every year,” said Bradford, who noted that set design begins in April and isn’t finalized until July. “It’s really a collaborative effort. We did it with just six people, and it’s rewarding to be able to take on the challenge together and come up with creative solutions.
The show attracted both regular Shake on the Lake followers and many first-time attendees. Sara Zalewski of Dansville, who grew up in Perry where Shake on the Lake is based, was seeing a Shake production for the first time. It was also the first live theatrical production for his son Maciej Scollon and daughter Teagan Scollon. All three loved the show.
“It was phenomenal,” Zalewski said. “I thought, what a great rendition that was.”
Teagan called the show “awesome” and liked how the actors transformed into their various personas through their moves or a little costume change.
Maciej was captivated by the journey undertaken by Macbeth.
“Macbeth must be difficult to play. At first you feel bad for him, but then he does what he does, and it’s an amazing change,” Maciej said.
He noted that as Macbeth’s paranoia increased, the characters that had been killed returned and only Macbeth could see them.
“It was very trippy,” Maciej said.
For Blunt, the actor who plays Macbeth, he was playing a role he always wanted to play. He was in a previous production of Macbeth, but not in the title role.
The actor is also a Shakespeare teacher and has such a passion for the form that he has several Shakespeare-themed tattoos and can easily play a bit of old English prose reacting like a bat to himself. is rushed during an interview after the show.
This summer also marks his first participation in a production of Shake on the Lake and he quickly discovered what supporters of the troupe already know: that there is an intimacy between audience and actors rarely equaled in the theater.
“It’s about following and a way of telling the story where you get to be here with the audience,” Blunt said. “Macbeth has a lot on his mind, some in the audience may have a lot on his mind, so you can come out and talk to the audience.”
On tour: “Something bad is happening around here”
Shake on the Lake performances take place outdoors and in daylight, close to the traditional stage practices used in Shakespeare’s time. The only difference is that Shake on the Lake rains or shines, with rain locations available at each tour stop.
There will be no intermission and the play lasts 90 minutes.
n Saturday, July 30, 2 p.m., Silver Lake — Perry Public Beach
n Saturday, July 30, 6:30 p.m., Silver Lake — Perry Public Beach
n Sunday, July 31, 3 p.m., Angelica — Angelica Park Circle
n Monday, August 1, at 6:30 p.m., Pavilion — Hollwedel Memorial Library
n Wednesday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m., Brockport — Morgan Manning House Western Monroe Historical Society
n Thursday, August 4 at 6:30 p.m., Linwood — Linwood Gardens
For updates on fundraising, volunteering and sponsorship events and opportunities, visit Facebook (Shake on the Lake) or www.shakeonthelake.org.